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Family’s anger over sentence for drink driver in death crash
THE FAMILY of a teenager killed in a head-on collision has slammed the sentence handed down to the drink driver involved.
Soldier Benjamin James Southall, 20, was jailed for 32 months for causing the death of 19-year-old Ben Andrews by careless driving when under the influence of alcohol.
Mr Andrews, who was described as a ‘bright and vibrant young man with his whole life ahead of him’, died following a collision on the A354 near the Pimperne roundabout on May 7 last year.
Southall, from the 26th Regiment Royal Artillery, appeared at Dorchester Crown Court to be sentenced after admitting the careless driving charge.
Stuart Ellacott, prosecuting, told the court that Mr Andrews, from Blandford, was giving a lift to friends Laura Haskell and Aaron Wicks when the fatal collision occurred at around 9.40pm.
Mr Wicks described how Southall’s car was travelling towards them with its full beam headlights on and veered over to their side of the road.
Mr Ellacott said: “Despite braking by Mr Andrews and an attempt to steer to the left to avoid an impact, the impact occurred.”
Mr Andrews suffered fatal injuries while Miss Haskell suffered a number of fractures to her vertebrae, arm, thigh and clavicle as well as a foot injury.
Mr Wicks managed to escape from the car with bruising.
Mr Ellacott said Southall, who suffered a broken wrist and bowel injury, was heard to say to paramedics on the way to hospital that he had drunk between six or seven pints that day.
A blood sample taken some four hours later revealed Southall had an alcohol level of 89mg per 100ml of blood, still above the legal limit of 80mg.
The court was told that a back calculation estimated Southall’s blood alcohol level at the time of the crash would have been around 123mg.
In a victim impact statement read at court Mr Andrews’s mother Sam said: “The impact of Ben’s death on our family has been devastating.
“Ben was a bright and vibrant young man with his whole life ahead of him.”
Mrs Andrews added: “There are not enough people like Ben Andrews in this world and we will do all we can to make sure he is not forgotten.”
Andrew Baker, mitigating, said Southall, of Gunville Down Road, Blandford, was a man of previous good character who had expressed ‘extreme remorse and horror’ for the consequences of his actions.
After reading glowing references from Southall’s superiors in the army, Mr Baker said: “He was a man of exemplary character.
“What took place was an aberration, an aberration because of drink.”
After Judge Roger Jarvis imposed his 32-month sentence Mr Andrews’ father Paul described the jail term as ‘horrendous’.
He said: “It’s diabolical.
“How can you get 32 months for killing someone?
“I just can’t believe it.”
Mother Sam added: “What example does that make of someone and how is it going to deter others from getting in the car when they’ve had a drink?”
‘Think twice’ message from bereaved parents
THE parents of Mr Andrews say they hope the tragedy their family has experienced will make others think twice about getting behind the wheel after they have been drinking.
Mr Andrews’ parents issued a statement after the sentencing saying: “The sentence imposed today on Southall will not bring back our beloved son.
“Laura Haskell and Aaron Wicks, who were with Ben when he died and who were also badly injured by the criminal actions of Southall, will bear both the mental and physical scars for the rest of their lives.
“Our son had a bright future and his personality brought joy to those who knew him.
“To have this bright light snuffed out by a young man who should have known better and who could easily have got a taxi a few miles home is something we will continue to struggle with.
“Our message today is that when you sit behind a wheel you are responsible not only for your life but those around you. We are sure Southall did not set out to kill Ben and seriously injure Laura and Aaron but the fact is that he did just that through a very stupid decision.
“His career and life are now in tatters but he has the opportunity to rebuild his life once he has served his time.
“To hold your son as he is dying is an emotion no parent should ever experience and our message to you is that when you drink do not drive and if you see someone going to, stop them – it saves lives.”
l Sergeant Dave Stroud, who acted as family liaison officer for the Andrews family, expressed his disappointment with the length of the sentence after the court hearing.
He said: “I’m surprised and disappointed at the length of the sentence, it doesn’t particularly send out a strong anti-drink drive message.”